George Cruikshank, Bank Restriction Note, a satirical note

England, AD 1819

A satirical banknote: crime, punishment and protest

In Britain the act of forgery, or sometimes even just the use of a forged banknote, was punishable by death until 1832. In the early nineteenth century the number of death sentences rose, as the forced circulation of notes for one and two pounds increased the temptation to forgery.

The British Government and the Bank of England were both heavily criticised for the harsh application of the law and for the issue of notes which were easily counterfeited. One of the most eloquent and unusual protests was this 'banknote' designed by the satirical cartoonist George Cruikshank (1792-1878). Standard features of the Bank of England's notes are replaced by gruesome ornaments such as skulls, a hangman's noose, ships for transportation (a common punishment for those found in possession of a forged note) and a terrible Britannia gobbling infants. Cruikshank claimed to have sketched the note in ten minutes after seeing a woman hanged for passing a forged note.

The note is signed J. Ketch. This was a byword for the hangman. The original Jack Ketch was a seventeenth-century executioner who had a notoriously bad aim with his axe.

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More information


D. Byatt, Promises to pay: the first 300 (London, Spink, 1994)

R.L. Patten, George Cruikshanks life, times (Cambridge, Lutterworth Press, 1992)

J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

V.H. Hewitt and J.M. Keyworth, As good as gold: 300 years of (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)


Width: 207.000 mm
Height: 128.000 mm

Museum number

CM 1984, 6-5, 11958



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